Feb. 11, 2013
With the Ohio University baseball team set to begin its 2013 campaign on Saturday, head coach Rob Smith sat down with OhioBobcats.com recently to preview the Bobcats' upcoming season.
You guys are heading down to Nashville to face Valparaiso and Belmont - two NCAA tournament teams from a year ago - which is a tall task to begin your Ohio baseball career. Are you guys looking forward to those games?
"Absolutely, I think we are looking forward to it. It's been several months of preparation, and I think our guys are eager to put a lot of the things they've been working on in play, in a real game. They are ready to get on the field and compete."
The 2013 schedule appears to be pretty challenging. How excited are you for this year's opponents?
"I am excited about it. Anytime you have challenging opponents, and have an opportunity to test your club, it's always a good thing. I think our guys are excited about our schedule, and they're looking forward to the schedule. I am excited to see how they respond to it."
Looking through your lineup, you have three guys who were fantastic during their freshman seasons in Cody Gaertner, Tyler Wells, and Jake Madsen. How happy are you to have these guys back?
"Yeah, it's always a plus to have guys coming off freshman years with a lot of experience. The fact that they were able to play quite a bit, but also be very successful, I think will bode very well for them this season. I think it also helps from the standpoint of trying to put a lineup together with so many young players. We know these guys have been successful in Division 1 baseball and I think that will help us early on."
Do you feel like there is a couple of guys who could emerge in the power hitter role?
"I do not think we are going to be known for our power production as a club. I hope we will be known as a team that can execute at a high level offensively, and can manufacture runs through various ways. As far as potential power guys, I think probably one of our best ones is Taylor Emody, a junior first basemen. We've spent a lot of time with him in the cages. He is a big physical kid who does have power. We just need to see it play out in potential game settings. He's a kid that could provide that power element for us. Outside of him, I think we're going to have to rely on action type of offense, and just put pressure on the defense to handle the ball."
How good does it make you feel that you have three solid catchers behind the plate?
"All three are very different catchers, and different types of players. I think we are fortunate to go three deep at the catcher position, and they all do different things. Cody (Gaertner) is a very good pure hitter. J.R. (Reynolds) is very good at handling the bat and executing. Kyle is a guy that can produce power and drive the ball maybe a little better than the other two. We will be utilizing all three of them early on to determine our best rotation behind the plate."
All three starting pitchers are gone from last season. Talk a little about this year's starting rotation and who you can expect to see out there.
"We know Jake Miller will be one of our front line starters, and he is projected to start game one for us as a freshman. Then we'll follow him up with Marck Paliotto. Marck has traditionally been a situational left-hand reliever out of the bullpen. As far as the 3-4 spots, we are still working trough some things. We are probably looking more toward guys like Sean Kennedy, Connor Sitz and Nick Plys."
Ohio was second in the league in team ERA last season. For most of the year, they actually led the league in ERA. A lot of that had to do with the back end of the bullpen. Talk a little bit about some of the guys you have coming back this year in the bullpen.
"Our bullpen will be the strength of our pitching staff. I feel very confident about our bullpen. We have got a legitimate Division I closer in Brett Barber. He has the potential to be very special as a closer. He has got enough velocity to where he can beat some hitters. He's got deception in his delivery. He's got a very good slider, and his changeup has improved dramatically throughout the years. So, he is really a three pitch closer that has a plus slider, and a finishing pitch on hitters. Logan Cozart who didn't pitch last year, has shown a ton of potential on the mound, and I'm excited to see it play out in game. He is an upper 80's guy with a good slider as well. He has really good command for a guy who hasn't pitched yet in college. We also have Brian Burkhart, who is a walk-on freshman and he really competes for us. Those three guys will give us a good chance to have a very strong bullphen. We will also get some help from Ryan Ferrell, another freshman right-hander who will be able to eat up some middle innings for us.
Are there any guys that you can see that can be a threat on the base paths to push the pace of the game?
"I want our offense to have several guys that can be threats on the base paths. Being a good base stealer doesn't mean you have to be fast. We have put a lot of emphasis on aggressiveness on the bases, and techniques as far as getting good jumps on the pitch."
Finally coach, what can Ohio baseball fans expect from the Bobcats this season?
"Our fans can expect a team that plays with a lot of energy and one that works very hard on getting better every day."